Tag: philanthropy factoid wednesday

Business and Philanthropy: A partnership whose time has come

by Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Last week, Bob Buchanan, principal of Buchanan Partners, a real estate development company, and president of the 2030 Group, an association of business leaders focused on regional issues and solutions, came to speak to WRAG member CEOs as part of our CEO Coffee and Conversation series. He was invited after he and Dr. Stephen Fuller (of the Center for Regional Analysis, George Mason University) called for a regional economic summit.  They suggested that, because the backbone of our region’s economy has been the federal government and that given the changes in our region’s relationship to this hometown employer, we must create a new regional economic reality.  They also underscored the fact that this isn’t a situation to be addressed solely by the District of Columbia or Fairfax, VA, or any other jurisdiction in our region, but a regional problem that should be examined as a whole and addressed by regional leaders using a broad lens and a long-range view.

I invited Bob to speak because, surprisingly, they hadn’t viewed philanthropy as one of the sectors to call to the planning table until I reached out. When asked why philanthropy wasn’t included, Bob responded, “business leaders go to those who can move the needle.”

What a wake up call!  Clearly, philanthropy wasn’t viewed as a change agent.

For years, I have thought that philanthropy doesn’t do enough to highlight the role that it plays in social change. That’s why we produced Beyond Dollars in 2009, featured Philanthropy Factoids in the Daily WRAG throughout 2011, and updated Beyond Dollars with a progress report in 2013. We wanted to showcase all that philanthropy does to improve people’s lives.  Unfortunately, that message hasn’t reached the business community, and part of that responsibility lies with us.  When I look back over the speakers that WRAG has presented over the last decade, I can’t find one business leader who isn’t also a philanthropist.  Until the conversation with Bob Buchanan, WRAG had not invited a business leader to present his or her ideas to philanthropy. We had not explored with business shared views and values toward possible shared action. In retrospect, wow.

So, WRAG is working to change that.  Bob Buchanan underscored the altruistic role that funders can play. He noted that when he speaks up for a particular need, he is often lumped in the category of “greedy developer” just trying to make his project work. Often, yes, he is trying to make a project happen, but it is a project that can improve the lives of many who live in a specific community.  His business identity often obscures the fact that he wants to turn a profit and improve the community.  He challenged the funding community to:

  • Consider how they are perceived as only helping the “un-” and “under-” members of the community. He acknowledged that funders are trying to improve the lives of all who live in a community and that when the “un”served or “under”served are helped, all community members are helped. He feels that the business community doesn’t see the role of philanthropy as helping everybody;
  • Look at how they might support start-up businesses that can improve the viability of communities just as they support start up/innovative, new social profit organizations; and
  • Make financial investments with their assets, not just grants.

He believes that elected officials charged with serving their discrete constituencies and limited by a relatively brief time in office can’t be the sole partners of business, particularly in pursuit of a new regional economic dynamic. He wants philanthropy to play a role.  Now we must determine what that role should be.

New numbers reveal increased youth poverty across the Greater Washington region; District among worst in the country [News, 11.30.11]

POVERTY | Here are some numbers that should make you angry. New Census data show that the poverty rate for youth (ages 5 to 17) has risen significantly in our region over the course of the recession.

  • In Montgomery County, the rate has almost doubled, from 5.4% in 2007 to 9% in 2010.
  • Manassas rose from 11.6% to 15.8%.
  • And the District rose from an already ridiculous 24.5% to a whopping 30.5%.

That puts the District in the rare and sour company of just 73 jurisdictions in the country with a youth poverty rate above 30%. The Examiner has a chart with numbers from each jurisdiction – and they are all higher than they were four years ago. (Examiner, 11/30)

HIV/AIDS | A new report from the CDC finds that only 28 percent of Americans living with HIV are getting optimal care. (WaPo, 11/30)

In the District, the Washington AIDS Partnership is ahead of the curve. Its Positive Pathways initiative is working to get people living with HIV/AIDS into care and measuring viral load to assess success.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | The developers of the Hubbard Place affordable housing complex in Columbia Heights were expecting a line of people to sign up for 100 spots on the apartments’ waiting list. They were not, however, expecting people to wait overnight in a line that extended for blocks. (WaPo, 11/30) And that was just to get on the waiting list.

EDUCATION | The Freddie Mac Foundation has awarded $250,000 to Prince George’s County schools for the “principal pipeline” initiative which is designed to improve principal recruitment, training, and evaluation. (Patch, 11/29)

JUVENILE JUSTICE | The New York Times has identified five nonprofits that are making big strides with only a little money. One is the District’s Youth Court which allows first-time, non-violent teenage offenders the chance to be reviewed by a group of peers and given alternatives to formally entering the juvenile justice system. (NY Times, 11/30)

Related: Be sure to check the Daily tomorrow for a new funder-commissioned report on major reform success in the District’s juvenile justice system in recent years.

WORKFORCE | Tamara found this hilarious re-imagining of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine. Written by Academy Award winning director Barry Levinson, it mocks the twisting of unemployment numbers to trick the public. (HuffPo, 11/28)

TUNES | The D.C. Public Library announced that cardholders can now download and keep more than 2 million songs for free (at a rate of 3 per week) from the library’s website. That works out to about a free album per month!

TRANSIT | The District has installed 9 new speed cameras. Fortunately, WAMU mapped them out so you can avoid them. (WAMU, 11/30)

FACTOID | Today’s Philanthropy Factoid Wednesday mixes history, law, academia, and manufacturing to give you…the origins of corporate philanthropy! (WG Daily, 11/30)

There are lots of problems to face in today’s news. But to end on a positive note, here’s a really neat list of ten futuristic engineering projects (both real and hypothetical) that could help save the environment and boost the global economy. My favorite is an elevator to space.

Philanthropy Factoid Wednesday – The origins of corporate philanthropy

Today’s corporate philanthropy has its roots in the great Depression. The Revenue Act of 1935 allowed corporate charitable contributions of up to five percent of net income to be tax exempt. Subsequently most states gradually changed their corporate charters to allow these kinds of contributions. However, as Olivier Zunz describes in Philanthropy in America: A History, this often created tension between management and stockholders, as the latter generally did not believe that management had the right to distribute profits.

When the A.P. Smith Manufacturing Company attempted to donate $1,500 to Princeton University in 1951 and were blocked by stockholders, the case ended up before the New Jersey Supreme Court. The court favored management, noting that “the appellants, as individual stockholders whose private interests rest entirely upon the well-being of the plaintiff corporation, ought not be permitted to close their eyes to present-day realities and thwart the long-visioned corporate action in recognizing and voluntarily discharging its high obligations as a constituent of our modern social structure.”

Give to the Max right now…Halloween shooting victim was DYRS ward…Most people see deepening wealth gap [News, 11.9.11]

It’s finally here! Give to the Max Day is in full swing. Have you donated to your favorite cause yet? Our region is aiming for $3 million by 11:59pm tonight – but let’s aim higher!

Find your favorite nonprofit and make a donation – any amount helps. Then, encourage all of your friends and neighbors to find a nonprofit to support. While you’re standing in line waiting to buy your lunch, started yelling “GIVE TO THE MAX!” at the top of your lungs. Yes, people will think you’re crazy, but they’ll remember what you were yelling.

Related: Give to the Max pages for the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and the Washington AIDS Partnership

EQUITY | Poll shows most see deepening wealth gap (WaPo, 11/9) “More than six in 10 Americans see a widening gap…about as many want the federal government to try to shrink the divide.”

JUVENILE JUSTICE | The 17-year-old who was shot in Georgetown on Halloween died last night – and he was a ward of D.C.’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services when he was shot. Under court order, the agency was supposed to transfer him to a facility in Pennsylvania. The transfer never took place, so a judge ordered him to be sent to the New Beginnings facility. Instead he was allowed to simply go home. (Examiner, 11/9)

In the last year-and-a-half, ten wards of the agency who were supposed to have been in custody have instead been accused of murder, and at least seven others have been murdered.

YOUTH/HEALTH | Children’s Hospital to bring mobile health care to Prince George’s (WaPo, 11/9)

HEALTH | Maryland state officials have announced a plan to grow the state’s primary care workforce by 25 percent over the next ten years. (Sun, 11/9)

VOTE | Here are the results of yesterday’s elections in Virginia. (WaPo, 11/9)

EARTHQUAKE! | President Obama has signed a disaster declaration for D.C. which frees up federal funding for earthquake-related repairs. (WAMU, 11/9) I love writing “EARTHQUAKE!”

FACTOID | For Give to the Max Day, we have a Philanthropy Factoid Wednesday about the rise of individual philanthropic giving in the early 20th century. (WG Daily, 11/9)

Last night, a giant asteroid passed between Earth and the moon. The galactic event reminded me of a really great article from The Atlantic about a man named Freeman Dyson – a genius physicist who developed a way of getting to Mars, Jupiter, and beyond.

Philanthropy Factoid Wednesday – A history of giving to the max

As incomes rose in the early part of the 20th century, individual philanthropic giving to social welfare organizations became a deeply entrenched part of American life. In his new book, Philanthropy in America: A History, Olivier Zunz describes 1920s and 30s research into individual giving trends. Between 1900 and 1929 the percentage of people in a given city who donated to philanthropic causes jumped from 3 percent to 35 percent. A 1929 survey of farmers’ budgets in 11 states found that families donated an average of $1.10 to the Red Cross and other organizations, in addition to giving to churches.

This charitable impulse continued even during the hard times of the Great Depression. A 1933 study of clerks and streetcar employees in San Francisco found that 93 percent donated an average of 1.5 percent of their earnings to the church or to social welfare organizations, and that 88 percent of those families donated to organized charities.

Philanthropy Factoid Wednesday – Philanthropy’s mythological roots

You might know that the word philanthropy comes from the Greek word philanthropos – a combination of philos (loving) and anthropos (humanity). More interesting, however, is the mythological context for the coining of the word.

According to the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s publication Philanthropy Reconsidered, the word philanthropy was likely first used by the Greek playwright Aeschylus in Prometheus Unbound around 460 BC. As the story goes, the Titan Prometheus created mankind. Guided by his philanthropos tropos, or humanity-loving character, Prometheus gave humans two gifts – fire and optimism. Fire was the symbolic tool to build civilizations, and optimism was the quality that would motivate humans to use fire to improve the human condition.